There’s Something Cathartic About Keeping Lists

On June 16th the Puppy will be four-and-a-half years old. In that four-and-a-half years, he’s trimmed his toenails exactly never. I’m sorry; does that gross you out? Yesterday I found Kitten washing her pacifier in the toilet. There, that should put “gross” into perspective for you.

From a recent camping excursion to Wallace Falls. I still don't know what critter he was aiming to catch with two bungee cables and a net.

From a recent camping excursion to Wallace Falls. I still don’t know what critter he was aiming to catch with two bungee cords and a net.

The toenail thing wasn’t a big deal until a couple of days ago. Kids’ nails are pretty soft, really, so Puppy’s would peel away before they started growing back into his foot. Eventually, though, the nails firm up, and eventually came ‘round last week. I noticed one of Puppy’s toenails had curled in on itself and was starting to press into his toe pad. It’s was kind of cute, actually—like this delicate little rosebud with mortally-sharp edges. Imagine a pale pink ninja throwing star. Husband announced it was time, at long last, for Puppy to submit to a toenail clipping, and approached Puppy with the clippers. Puppy immediately and in one go played every card in his preschool negotiator deck—I’ll get dressed for school! I’ll put away the Kindle! I’ll share with sister! You can trim them when I’m five! When I’m five! When I’m fiiiiiiive!

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It’s remarkable, the strength of an almost four-and-a-half-year-old. Husband would have had to put him in a Fujiwara armbar to subdue him—though, really, that’s more appropriate for clipping fingernails. Suffice it to say, Puppy won that round. No matter how baseless a kid’s fear, (he lets us trim his fingernails with barely a glimmer of awareness) one has to draw the line at wrestling holds that leave a mark.

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Puppy is similarly risk-adverse with narrative. He doesn’t like stories with conflict, or movies with even a whisper of menace. Can you imagine how this limits our nighttime reading selection? He has approximately one hundred picture books on his shelf, but rejects one title after another because he doesn’t like it when the elephant falls off the cliff, or the bear hibernates on the monkey, or the llama shrieks for his mama, or the mouse draws a mean picture of her teacher.*

I’ve extolled the restorative effects of catharsis; I’ve decried the tedium—the glassy-eyed, vegetative tedium—of Utopia; I’ve explained that one can’t have light without dark, good without evil… Still he chooses Caillou over Frozen, every time. (Frozen has wolves, you may recall. And that Frankenstein’s monster of snow. Caillou has Canadians.)

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Speaking of abrupt segues, I’ve been compiling a list of spelling errors I find in communiqués from my kids’ teachers. It’s a depressing exercise, but it’s the only exercise I get since having kids. I find the richest fodder in the teachers’ “portfolio-my-day” entries, wherein they’re meant to post pictures*** of the kids’ daily activities and compose a little spiel about the importance of water-color spatters on paper towels to the development of a child’s pre-frontal core tax.

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Below is a sampling from my manifesto list. Please note, I’ve omitted errors that could easily be attributed to typos. But, if the same typo-like error appears more than twice in one post (such as site when the writer meant sit), it goes on the list. Yes, there are rules. I’ve also declined to record errors in punctuation or usage— the their/there/they’re or to/too transgressions—because to do so would be to transcribe the posts in their entirety, and I’ve got my own posts to write.

  • Expaned (expand)
  • Cafine (caffeine)
  • Smills (smiles)
  • Her self
  • Peek a bow
  • Purpel
  • Mates (mats)
  • Resonantly (recently)
  • Site (sit)
  • Should (showed)
  • Impromtive (impromptu)
  • Oppertunity
  • Atempts
  • Sipy (sippy)
  • Looks (locks)
  • Importants (importance)
  • Exited (excited)
  • Ribbite (the sound a frog makes)
  • Dinasors

I’ve also found examples of correct spelling that, juxtaposed with the errors noted above, are astonishing: tactile, parallel, experiment, experience, texture, curiosity. It’s what keeps me coming back to portfolio-my-day.

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Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to take a moment to note some aspects of Kitten’s character at one-and-a-half years old. She is fiercely independent. I know all mothers say that of their toddlers, but this is my second tour of toddlerhood and I can confidently say Kitten’s independent streak would kick your kid’s independent streak in the teeth. She doesn’t just push your hand away when you try to give her a little boost into her car seat; she tears your arm off at the shoulder and uses it as a vaulting pole. This baby is going to do it by herself, goddammit, and hold on to your appendages if you try to get close.

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Also, she’s particular in her reading preferences. She’ll let you read anything to her, so long as it’s All of Baby Nose to Toes. If you present a different book, Kitten will give you time to open it and read one page before slipping her hand around the back of the book and slamming it shut on your fingers. Then she points to the stack of books on the dresser and dares you to try another. But, for All of Baby Nose to Toes she’s content to sit through the reading without violence, and even interact with the story—playing peekaboo, sniffing at the rose, squealing at the rubber ducky… I suspect there’s doctoral dissertation about that book in her future.

Finally, she’s my sunshine girl. That about sums her up right now. Thanks for reading!

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*Timothy and the Strong Pajamas (twice), Llama Llama Red Pajama, Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse.

**I wanted to name the Puppy English. True story. I advocated for it with terrific zeal. Husband balked, of course. Killjoy. I also campaigned to name Kitten Sonnet. I relented on that one when everyone to whom I proposed the name replied, “Sonic?” You’re welcome, Kitten.

***Don’t even get me started on their photo compositions. Teachers, please—pictures of the tops of my kids’ heads are not illuminating (she types, as though she’d ever tell the teachers about her blog).

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The CIA Handbook for Mothers

Let’s talk about interrogation techniques, shall we? Let’s imagine there’s a tiny yet vital piece of information in your four-year-old’s brain that you need to extract—say, the location of his shoes. Now, if you’re dealing with a mentally-stable, hormonally-balanced, not-diabolically-possessed person who’s at least passingly-competent in your language, you might simply ask, “Where are your shoes?” But a four-year-old is none of those things. A four-year-old will respond to direct questioning by tapping a finger against his lips in a simulacrum of reflective thought, then giving an answer that (33% of the time) doesn’t make sense, contextually. Puppy, where are your shoes? Hmmm… Raining. Sometimes, (56% of the time) the answer will be merely unhelpful: They’re somewhere in the house… (more finger tapping) or outside the house. Invariably, the answer will be wrong. (With maybe a .3% lucky-guess correct response rate).

Puppy got into my jewelry box and selected these items to wear to school. I see Fate's hand in this as it comes a week after I mocked a boy in Puppy's class for wearing a giant, floral headband all day. No, I didn't mock him to his face! Good grief. I did it behind his back, obviously.  The headband is Lily's. I just keep it in my jewelry box. You know... for its safety.

Puppy got into my jewelry box and selected these items to wear to school. I see Fate’s hand in this as it comes a week after I mocked a boy in Puppy’s class for wearing a giant, floral headband all day.
No, I didn’t mock him to his face! Good grief. I did it behind his back, obviously. Also, the headband is Lily’s.

So how do you get at that little fact your four-year-old has squirreled away? I’m telling you right now you can rule out the what-were-you-doing-when line of questioning. Four-year-olds are insensitive to the passage of time. Anything that happened to Puppy before this exact moment that we’re in right now happened when he was three. When Puppy goes to bed tonight and wakes up tomorrow morning, it’ll still be today. This is what I mean:

The lower half of the timeline reflects how rational people perceive the flow of time; the upper half reflects Puppy's perception of time.  For the sake of simplicity, I've chosen to constrain the timeline by Puppy's birth date on the left and an arbitrary day in December, 2017 on the right. This was simply an editorial decision and should in no way be construed as a statement about the birth of our planet, evolution of the species, intelligent design, or the end of days.

The lower half of the timeline reflects how rational people perceive the flow of time; the upper half reflects Puppy’s perception of time.
For the sake of simplicity, I’ve chosen to constrain the timeline by Puppy’s birth date on the left and an arbitrary day in December, 2017 on the right. This was simply an editorial decision and should no way be construed as a statement about the birth of our planet, evolution of the species, intelligent design, or the end of days.

Clearly, time-based questions are futile.  Though, there’s a flavor of chronological interrogation that I will employ from time-to-time—not because it’s successful, but because I’m desperate. I call it attempted-hypnotism, and this is how it plays out in our house:

Puppy, remember when you were riding your bike in the driveway, after nap? Uh-huh. And you were wearing your shoes? Uh-huh. And you came inside through the garage, right? Yep. And you took off your shoes—remember that? Nods head. Where did you put them? My hands were cold on the bike and I needed my gloves with the spiders on them, but if I eat the nola [granola] bar with my gloves on, the crumbs stick to the gloves. Mommy, why is it cold outside? Because it’s springtime in Seattle, honey. When you came in for the granola bar, did you take off your shoes? I already had the nola bar; I came in for the gloves. Okay, and did you take off your shoes? Why? Because they’re missing. Just like the dune buggy is missing!*  

Of course, the Puppy added his own style to the accessories.

Of course, the Puppy added his own style to the accessories.

Other interrogation techniques I’ve tried:

  • The philosophical approach: Puppy, if you were a pair of lost shoes, where would you be?
  • The ambush: Holy smokes, look at the size of that crow where did you put your shoes?!
  • The sing-song subliminal: If you’re happy and you know it find your shoes—where are they!
  • (I’m morally incapable of trying this one, but it’s popular in certain circles) Maternal guilt: If you loved me, you’d find your shoes.

Alas, a four-year-old’s mind is locked down tighter than a lid on a bottle of children’s suspension Advil when your baby is shrieking and your head is pounding from that third glass of wine you allowed yourself because it’s Friday and surely the kids will sleep in tomorrow but no, the baby is cutting molars beginning now. Just accept that you will not learn the location of the missing shoes from the person who last handled them.

Our new house has an alcove for, like, art 'n stuff. We don't have any art, so Puppy often plays the part-- striking a pose in the alcove. I have dreams of getting him to stand there while guests are visiting-- maybe making subtle, mute commentary on our conversation with his body art.

Our new house has an alcove for, like, art ‘n stuff. We don’t have any art, so Puppy often plays the part– striking a pose in the alcove. I have dreams of getting him to stand there while guests are visiting– maybe making subtle, mute commentary on our conversation with slight contortions in his body art.

We looked in all the logical places for a four-year-old’s shoes: the freezer (which is where the Kitten stores her socks), the garbage can (where Kitten stores her nuks), the box of Christmas ornaments shoved into the farthest reaches of our garage… The shoes simply POOF! disappeared. And now we’re taking bets as to when we’ll find them. Here’s what we’ve got so far—let me know if you’d like to wager; it’s just $5 to get in on the action:

  • Husband: As soon as we buy new shoes
  • intrepid librarian: When we move
  • Neighbor mom with two boys: As soon as he outgrows the missing pair

* The dune buggy toy disappeared maybe two years ago, but Puppy brings it up whenever something is newly lost. He has a litany of lost things he periodically runs through: the dune buggy, the door wedge, the light-up shoes… I think it comforts him, his mantra of lost things. I should get him a dashboard-statue of the patron saint of lost things. Care to wager how long before he loses it?

Great Moments in US History

Subject change: Puppy had a play date over last weekend and the two of them, plus the boy who lives next door (who will no doubt begin to feature prominently in this blog and, thus, needs a nickname) did a little gardening. The resulting photos are mediocre in terms of composition, lighting, and focus, but they still struck a chord for me, and I think I figured out why:

 

Doesn't this look like part of a WPA mural you'd find on the side of a Federal building in San Francisco?

Doesn’t this look like part of a WPA mural you’d find on the side of a Federal building in San Francisco?

 

Iwo Jima. Totally. Or maybe Crossing the Delaware, backwards.

Iwo Jima. Totally. Or maybe Crossing the Delaware, backwards.

 

The Kennedys. There's a pitcher of martinis just off-screen.

The Kennedys. There’s a pitcher of martinis just off-screen.

 

Pretty much any 1950s TV show. Really, I just wanted to include the photo.

Pretty much any 1950s TV show. Really, I just wanted to include the photo.

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